You should always play the role of a discerning client when viewing a new place to live. Remember, you are probably making a year-long commitment that will cost thousands of dollars. Renting an apartment/house can be a large financial investment make sure you are getting the most out of your money!
Before you begin your search for an apartment/house, evaluate what you want and what is realistic within your budget. Ask yourself important questions, such as: What is my budget? How much do I want to spend on rent and utilities? What area of town do I want to live in? Do I need to live near public transportation? What would my commute to work be if I lived in a specific neighborhood?
After you have determined what you are looking for in an apartment/house, begin your search! Try and view as many places as possible but make sure you are looking at places that fit your search requirements.
The following three checklists are a good tool to use before, during, and after the apartment viewing. Please use these checklists as a guide and feel free to edit the list to best suit your needs.
Before the Viewing
Before the viewing, ask the most important questions over the phone to make sure the apartment is even a potential candidate. Here are some big questions for you to consider:
How many bedrooms in the apartment/house?
Where is the place located?
What is the rent? How much are utilities per month?
Does the landlord allow pets?
Does the place offer X or Y that we absolutely must have?
Is the apartment located close enough to work, or school?
Is the apartment located near public transportation?
If time permits, you should drive/walk by the place to get a feel for the neighborhood and see if you like the building before the actual viewing. Make sure you have a checklist of things to look for and a list of questions to ask about the apartment and management company. Feel free to ask as many questions necessary for you to feel comfortable about the decision. The property manager/ person showing you the apartment should respect your diligence.
During the Viewing
Dress neatly and show up well-groomed for the occasion. Making a good first impression can give you an advantage when competing with other people for an apartment.
If possible, you should bring the following things with you to the viewing:
A pen and notepad
A form of identification
References from previous landlords
A digital camera to take pictures of the space for review later
When you are visiting the apartment, make sure to check out the following:
Are the door locks stable and functional?
Do all of the windows have functional locks, screens, and do they open and close easily?
Do the oven and all the burners on the stove function properly?
Is the refrigerator frost free?
Is there plenty of natural light?
Are there any major cracks in the walls or ceilings?
How is the water pressure for both hot and cold water?
Look underneath the kitchen sink, behind the stove and refrigerator, and low level kitchen cabinets. Are there any rodent droppings, or holes where rodents/insects could come in?
Do you see any mousetraps, or bait, indicating a current or previous rodent problem?
Do you see any signs of water stains, swelling, or warping along the baseboards? Does the apartment smell of mildew?
How many electrical outlets are in each room?
How many telephone jacks are in the apartment and where are they located?
Is there a cable television hookup?
Do I get cell-phone service in the apartment?
Is there air-conditioning/central heat?
Are there smoke detectors in the apartment, and are they all working?
Is there a fire extinguisher in the apartment?
On the exterior of the property, how do the grounds look? Is the grass neatly mowed? Is the snow shoveled away? Is there any trash or debris on the sidewalks or lawns? Is the building facade neatly painted and well-maintained?
While you meeting with the property manager/ potential roommate, here are some questions to ask:
What is the average utility bill?
What is the monthly rent?
Are any utilities included in the monthly rent?
What is the pet policy for the building?
Is there any parking provided?
What are the neighbors like?
How are regular and emergency maintenance issues handled?
What is the policy for subletting?
How is trash disposal handled?
Has the apartment building been broken into in the last few years?
Before leaving, you should make sure that you have a clear understanding of the application process and the date that the apartment will become available.
After the Viewing
After you have seen the apartment, think seriously about what you have seen. If there are doubts, continue your search. If you are interested, but would like to keep looking around, its a good idea to find out how many more showings the property manager/person has. This will let you estimate how much time you have to make a decision.
If you are not interested in the apartment, politely let the property manager/ person know, and thank them for their time. If you are interested, ask the manager/person showing the apartment how to proceed with the application/ moving-in process. Make sure to provide all of the necessary documentation right away to secure the apartment before someone else comes along.
If it is not possible for you to view the apartment personally, try to get a friend, or family member to handle the viewing. Also, ask them to take digital images of the place to send to you for inspection.